To say I wasn’t expecting to hear Varga is an understatement, as they’ve been quiet even in the local music scene here in Southern Ontario. But alas, “Enter The Metal” is here, and it shows Varga thankfully going back to their progressive metal roots, with little sprinkles of traditional heavy metal here and there.
“Enter The Metal” is actually an incredibly appropriate name for that matter, as it reeks of metal from several sides, with ‘Gamera’ packing little tidbits of speed metal and NWOBHM with a progressive edge, and ‘Beginning Of The End’ taking cues from early 90’s Megadeth. It’s all confined to sound and feel like something of Varga’s own, especially with guitar work, as instruments soar drastically alongside a battering ram of percussion and bass. The writing and sound mix is especially good as well, highlighting Varga’s performances and giving everything an epic feel. It’s actually hard not to be in awe of some of the instrumental work as it winds with the upmost fury. Varga succeeds by playing metal fast and smart, going back to their roots and even the roots of progressive metal to create one of the most interesting comebacks of the year.
Full disclosure … VARGA and I grew up on the bad side of Hamilton mountain in the ’90s when metal was on on the fence of being cool. Of course we all knew it was cool, and the band’s label RCA/BMG believed it until Seattle (METAL CHURCH excluded) took matters down a different path.
Varga ended up releasing two well-received albums in 1994 (Prototype) and 1996 (Oxygen).
Not certain how to term this return. Reunion? Well the band really never broke up … their paths have just crossed again as the planets have suddenly re-aligned after 13 years.
But get this straight, Varga are back in the game and make it no secret that their mission is 100% full-on aggressive power metal with plenty of thrash tendencies and the forward-thinking vision of band’s like ATHEIST and CYNIC.
And its like the four-piece – Joe Varga (bass and vocals), Adam Alex (guitar), Sean Williamson (guitar), and Dan Fila (drums) – never left the garage! Enter The Metal is most certainly a lesson in the art of jamming, shredding, bashing and screaming for vengeance. Not that the lads are over the hill, but their youthful vitality is shocking. And yes, their influences shine, particularly IRON MAIDEN and METALLICA, and they proudly wear it on their sleeve.
Despite the fact that Enter The Metal is a re-working of old songs from an unreleased album that the band recorded before their major label deal, each track is its own riveting adventure, hardly dated, Varga in ultimate rebirth, kicking and screaming.
At times Varga’s vision is a bit hard to follow (envision Jack Nicholson working through the labyrinth in The Shining), but you’ll be able to find your way out, albeit a bit bruised and battered!
During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Varga was one of the better Canadian metal acts to find success on a major label and getting heavy rotation on Much Music. They went on the road and opened for Metallica and White Zombie, and toured extensively throughout Canada and the United States. They played a hybrid style of prog/thrash/industrial metal, releasing the album Prototype in 1993 and Oxygen in 1996 before leaving the metal scene behind.
The members of the band went on their separate ways, continuing to perform in various other projects until reuniting in 2012. The group recently entered the studio with producer Julius Butty (Hypodust) to record 6 new songs that hark back to their progressive/thrash metal roots. The album is appropriately called Enter the Metal and that is exactly what you get here; 6 tracks of progressive metal, crazy time changes, a plethora of riffs and multi-layered vocals to top it all off.
Enter the Metal screams to life with “Beginning of the End” and opens with the famous Oppenheimer quote “Now I become Death” before splintering off into a full-fledged progressive attack. This song also appears on their Multiple Wargasms demo from 1991 and gets updated here. The next track “Gamera” showcases some of Varga’s heavy progressive leanings, extending over 8 minutes and melding groove, thrash and prog rock into a melodic mélange of sounds. This is probably my favorite track, not only because it is a song about the famous Toho Studios monster, but it even goes so far as to lift Gamera’s theme song, inserting it into the beginning of the track.
Beyond that, “Plane Crash” and “Mad Scientist” are also numbers that appeared originally on their 1991 demo, so when the band claimed to be going back to their original roots they meant it. The next track “No More Clean Air” is the most serious number here, given how the socially conscious lyrics really drip venom. It is also the shortest composition on the album, often reminding me of the substance released on 1993’s Prototype. I really liked this number and they follow it up with the thrashy tempo of “Shark Attack,” relying on the satisfying mix of a driving rhythm section and relentless riffing to close things out.
Having Varga return to the Canadian metal scene is significant, especially since I grew up listening to them during their original run back in the late 80’s. Enter the Metal is not quite as polished as Prototype was, but there is no mistaking the raw energy and relentless progression to be found here. This is definitely a good start and I hear the band plans on releasing Return to the Metal in 2014, so I am keen to hear that.